Everyone knows that a pregnant woman must give up many things—unpasteurized cheeses, smoked salmon, wine—but when Maggy’s midwife suggested she give up sugar, it was a big jolt. Her midwife’s reasoning was sound. Lots of sugar would mean a heavier baby, which would result in a more difficult delivery.
Up to now Maggy had done such a good job of living without so many of the things she dearly loved. The afternoon sweet had become her only treat. For the sake of her baby and the hopes of an easy delivery, Maggy listened. For nearly her entire pregnancy, she refrained from all forms of sugar.
I was proud of Maggy’s resolve, and so during those quiet weeks before his birth, I spent time thinking about the treat I’d bake to honor her sacrifice. She loves chocolate. I’d lead with that. This cookie would be delicious, but not decadent. Maggy’s weight gain during pregnancy had been minimal. Still, there was high motivation to regain her pre-baby physique.
A little Googling lead me to Martha Stewart’s Biscotti Bites. What initially attracted me to these clever little chocolate-dipped cookies is their simplicity. They weren’t twice baked. Plus they were small with a relatively lean ingredient list, just the kind of cookie Maggy could enjoy guilt-free with an afternoon cup of tea.
I set out to tailor the recipe to our family’s tastes, subbing in orange zest for the grapefruit and ground pistachios for the coconut to create Baby Biscotti with Pistachios, Chocolate, and Orange, one of the best cookies I’ve baked up in a long time.
In the coming weeks I’ll let Maggy tell her birth story, but these cookies played an important role leading up her baby’s birth. The day before he was born, Maggy’s labor stalled. Her midwife sensed her frustration and gave Maggy permission to treat herself—within reason—to whatever she wanted. We had a good few minutes fantasizing about Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies, but ultimately we headed home, put on the kettle, and savored a few Baby Biscotti. Late afternoon the next day Baby Keet still had not entered the world, so we put on a pot of tea, set out a plate of Baby Biscotti and waited.
Late that night Dashiell Collins Keet—six pounds, fourteen ounces—arrived. As I stared at him resting peacefully on Maggy’s chest, I checked all his little features. The only words that would come were those of my late father’s. Mom says that when he saw me for the first time he exclaimed, “Honey, she’s the prettiest thing in the nursery!”
- 1¼ cups each: all purpose flour and fine cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ cups pistachios, ground finely in a food processor
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, ground finely in a food processor
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside
- Cream butter, sugar, and orange zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer; beat in eggs, one at a time, then flour mixture, to make smooth dough. Stir in pistachios and about ⅓ of the ground chocolate to form flavorful, stiff dough.
- Using a measuring spoon, scoop dough, slightly rounded teaspoonfuls at a time, to form mounds (no need to roll into tidy balls) and place about an inch apart on a large silpat-lined rimmed baking sheet. (I made three 18- by 12-inch sheets of 35).
- Working 1 sheet at a time, bake until biscotti are crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Set silpat-lined baking sheets aside.
- Meanwhile melt chocolate in a microwave on high power or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Working one biscotti at a time, dip bottoms in chocolate, scraping off excess on bowl rim, and return to baking sheets. Set in a cool place for chocolate to firm up. Remove from sheets and serve. Biscotti can be stored in a cookie tin for a couple of weeks.